Right on Track
Whether they carry commercial goods, raw materials or people, trains rarely have the luxury of stopping for long. That’s rarely an issue on an active rail line, but when railways require new construction, renovation and modernization, you need a hands-on expert who can keep things on track.
As one of Balfour Beatty’s leading rail experts, Area Operations Manager Chuck Chapman understands the importance of solutions-driven rail construction. Throughout his impressive 35-year career, Chuck has honed his skills as an innovative problem-solver, a master communicator and a creative project scheduler for public and private clients alike. Every dollar and every hour saved counts, and Balfour Beatty’s forward-thinking rail professionals like Chuck skillfully identify them at every turn.
Hands-On Problem Solving
Project leaders must display innovative problem-solving and the willingness to roll up one’s sleeves, take a personal role in the project plan and execute the best path forward.
Chuck’s storied career is replete with such situations, both as an estimator and as a project manager, and where the two disciplines converge. On a former employer’s bridge project, Chuck and his team were faced with a dilemma: the project required the creation of a dewatered area to facilitate bridgework, but traditional methods of sinking a cofferdam using sheet piles wouldn’t be adequate.
The approach spans of the bridge offered too little clearance to install cofferdams, and splicing sheet piles to handle the task would have increased project costs. So Chuck and his team got creative. They combined the strengths of each method by securing sheet piles to the cofferdam base using bulb seals.
“On each phase of the bridge, our solution probably saved four to six months,” Chuck recalls. “You multiply that across 36 segments, and the time and cost savings made an incredible difference for our client.”
While that level of creative problem-solving can come with the territory of complex infrastructure construction, it remains one of Chuck’s favorite aspects of his job and something he sees as wise stewardship of clients’ valuable time and money.
“There’s always an opportunity to partner with our clients, develop solutions and proactively prevent problems,” Chuck adds. “We get the right people together to create solutions that serve a project technically, fiscally and safely.”
From the earliest planning phases to the completion of a project’s lifecycle, project leaders must be master communicators with every stakeholder. Direct, constant communication with clients, owners and trade partners can help prevent costly delays and any unnecessary impacts to the traveling public or vital supply chains that rely on rail infrastructure.
On Chuck’s most recent project, the electrification of Caltrain in San Jose, California, he prioritizes clear and consistent communication with project leaders, the client and local municipal authorities, ensuring Balfour Beatty adheres to all standards and procedures for working in and around critical infrastructure. Chuck understands that early and proactive team alignment enables the collaborative development of solutions that enhance critical logistics and safety planning.
Chuck and his fellow rail experts at Balfour Beatty cultivate a shared team understanding our client’s vision and target turnover dates, enabling strategic and successful project schedules.
“Traffic impacts and utility relocation are at the forefront of our minds on any rail project, because we know how mission critical both can be,” Chuck says. “By identifying these constraints early, we’re actually empowered to plan the most effective solutions such as nighttime closures and utility relocations that avoid interference with rail tracks and any permitting necessary to accomplish both.”
Balfour Beatty’s rail leaders can also leverage the many advantages of prefabrication where it can accelerate the schedule, save money and mitigate a project’s public impact. Railway replacements are a prime example.
“Prefabrication is another powerful tool in our planning toolbox,” Chuck says. “If we can build 1,000 feet of rail next to its final location, we can keep trains moving during that process, take the line out of service for a shorter outage period and install the new rail all at once.”
United in Vision
For Chuck, understanding a client’s vision is just par for the course. By communicating that vision to all stakeholders, then planning, designing and scheduling projects accordingly, the entire team stays on track.
Rail is one of our oldest modes of motorized travel but still plays a crucial role in the way we move people and goods around our communities and around the country. We’re proud to serve our clients by making rail construction and renovation as efficient, expedient and economical as possible and empowering leaders like Chuck who can make it happen.